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Microsoft testing potential Slack rival app to help shift workers organize schedules and chat with colleagues

Microsoft is testing a new app called Project Sonoma that is designed for shift workers at restaurants and retailers to view and manage their schedules and chat with co-workers.

Here is a description of the app, which is currently in private preview mode in the Google Play and Apple apps stores:

“The one-stop app for deskless workers. See when you’re next scheduled to work. Get important on-the-job info. Chat with your teammates. And more. All from your phone.”

In the preview mode, only people working at participating businesses can sign up. Others can get on a waitlist.

The app could become a competitor to productivity apps big and small. Its chat function could rival that of popular workplace collaboration tool Slack. Slack, which has become a go-to app for startups and media companies, was almost acquired by Microsoft earlier this year for $8 billion. While the app description doesn’t expressly say anything about shift-switching, it could become a competitor to local startup Shyft.

The app was first spotted by The blog suggests the inclusion of the word “shiftr” in the URL on the Google Play store points to the involvement of a Sydney-based app called shiftr that focuses on employee scheduling. That could indicate an acquisition of the company founded by Ludek Dolejsky and Adrian Dean.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Update: Here’s a statement from Microsoft:

“Project Sonoma is an app we are testing with a limited group of customers that lets employees view and manage their work shifts from their phone. People whose company has signed up to participate during the testing phase can install and use the app. We are not disclosing the names or number of companies participating in the test.

We’re always building and incubating new solutions to help people get more done, and we don’t have any availability timelines or details to share at this time. We can confirm that Project Sonoma has been developed internally by Microsoft from the ground up and is not based on an acquisition.”

Productivity and scheduling have become big priorities for many tech companies. Earlier today, Microsoft announced another productivity move with the acquisition of Genee, which uses natural language processing to set up meetings. When users include Genee on a communication about setting up a meeting, the service scans participants’ calendars, chooses a time to meet when both parties are free, and sends invitations. It can also be used to schedule group events.

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